Sumi Sevilla Haru, First and Only Woman of Color to Serve as SAG Interim President, Dies at 75

1995_Barry Gordon passes gavel to Sumi Haru

8A-2014-10-17-SumiHaru-IronLotusLast year, I had the honor of conducting a number of interviews of notable figures for a documentary celebrating East West Players’ 50th anniversary.

One of the interviewees was Sumi Sevilla Haru, who came with a copy of her book, Iron Lotus: Memoirs of Sumi Sevilla Haru, and stacks of notes and historical archives in tow. I learned a lot about her groundbreaking work in support of Asian Americans and people of color in Hollywood. Sadly, news broke that she passed away on October 16, 2014 at the age of 75.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Sumi Sevilla Haru, who served as interim president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1995, has died. She was 75.

Haru became a SAG member in 1968 and joined AFTRA in 1972. She served as a national board member for both throughout the years, and was the first and only woman of color to serve as interim president of SAG. She was elected to a two-year term as a member of the national board to the merged SAG-AFTRA in 2013.

“It is with great sadness that our SAG-AFTRA family says goodbye to Sumi Haru,” said SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. “Sumi notably represented SAG-AFTRA and its predecessor unions for decades on our local and national boards, and as Screen Actors Guild recording secretary and interim president. Sumi served our members through her lifelong dedication to actors, the labor movement, and civil rights and equal employment. She did that with conviction, passion and grace. Our deepest condolences go out to her loved ones. We will miss her.”

In 1995, she became the first Asian Pacific American to hold the position of national vice president of the AFL-CIO, a role she filled for six years. In 2009, SAG honored her with the Ralph Morgan Award, which was given for distinguished service to SAG’s Hollywood Division.

Haru was the author of the 2012 memoir Iron Lotus: Memoirs of Sumi Sevilla Haru. She was born in Orange, N.J.

Photo credit: SAG-AFTRA

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jozjozjoz is a taiwanese-american gal who lives and blogs underneath the hollywood sign and who doesn’t clean her fishtank unless the fish starts to do the backstroke. she is also able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but cannot stop from bumping into door handles, cabinet doors, and anything else that protrudes or has a sharp edge. she does not run with scissors for this same reason. she can pet the fur off a dog but don’t ask her to go anywhere near a horse. or a moth. or a roach. her dealings with L.A.’s finest (aka the parking violations department) are legend, as are her giant sneezes. Other than the two too many joz’s, jozjozjoz is a perfectly normal, relatively sane individual who defies the odds, reaches for the stars, and carries moonbeams home in a jar. She’d rather be a fish… but not in her own dirty fishtank.
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